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The War on Women: Denying Misogyny Is Gaslighting

29/05/2014 11:51 BST | Updated 28/07/2014 10:59 BST

The mass murders in Isla Vista perpetrated by Elliot Rodger are just another theatre in the War on Women. It isn't a new crime or one that is particularly abnormal. Women die every single day at the hands of men. Two women a week in the UK are killed by current or former partners. In the US, 3 women a day are killed by intimate partners. - in 2007, 14% of all homicides in the US were related to domestic violence. The War on Women ranges from telling little girls that boys pull their pigtails because they "like them" to legislative attacks on women's reproductive freedom, street harassment, rape and the murder of women serial killers and 'normal' men who believe they are entitled to have access to women's bodies whenever and whenever they want. It includes Boko Haram kidnapping 300 young girls whilst the world watches, mass rape in the Congo and the everyday sexism women experience going to work or buying milk. All of these exist on a continuum of male violence against women and girls. To claim otherwise is to ignore women's experiences. It is gaslighting on a global scale.

Within hours of the murders and before any evidence as to Rodger's mental health was available, Sheriff Bill Brown was already referred to it as ""the work of a madman". Despite the fact that people with mental illnesses are far more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators, crimes of this magnitute committed by white men (and Rodger did have white privilege despite his heritage) are always blamed on mental health. If Rodger were African-American or of South Asian descent, the media would not have raised the issue of mental health. Instead, words like thug and terrorist would have been used. Yet, all these crimes committed by men are forms of toxic masculinity - whether the perpetrator be a white middle class serial killer, a Hispanic gang member or a member of the Taliban. These men believe they are entitled to women's bodies and that they have the right to punish women who don't behave according to their script. How toxic masculinity plays out is culturally contextualized but all are from the same basic belief: men have the right to do what they want to women. This, simply, is aggrieved entitlement. To deny this is to deny the reality of male violence and the hundreds of thousands of women who are targeted by it on a daily basis.

Rodger's crime is not an aberration - his misogyny is just part of a pattern of male violence. The difference between this and the thousands of crimes perpetrated against women every day is that Rodger is the son of a celebrity who targeted young, blond women. If Rodger had targeted African-American or Indigenous women, it's unlikely the media would still be covering the story. Regardless of ethnicity of the victims, the media would still be desperately trying to pretend that misogyny was not responsible (or racism for that matter) - that Rodger's aggrieved entitlement was a symptom of mental illness and not the reality of toxic masculinity.

Men who kill choose to kill. Men who rape, assault and torture women choose to do so. Rodger's crime isn't an aberration. The video he released on YouTube is the same justification given by millions of men who choose to harm women. Rodger isn't the only man making these statements on YouTube, Reddit, Twitter, Facebook and thousands of other online communities. The failure of these multi-national corporations to respond effectively to violent misogyny isn't because they lack the ability. It is because they choose not to. Facebook refused to remove a page celebrating Rodger as a "Real American Hero" despite multiple complaints. Facebook won't allow pictures of babies' breastfeeding but a page glorifying a mass murderer did not violate its community standards. Refusing to deal with misogyny means these companies are involved in perpetuating a culture of toxic masculinity,

This is nothing less than gaslighting women on a global scale. Refusing to discuss misogyny means men do not have to question their own privilege or behaviour. It allows men to wear t-shirts which promote rape culture and call women over-sensitive for finding rape jokes triggering. It allows the BBC to classify criminal prosecutions of celebrities for child sexual violence under "entertainment". It allows Roman Polanski, who pled guilty to sexual offences against a child, to continue his career with no punishment despite fleeing before sentencing. The sheer number of men desperate to claim Rodger's desire to rape, murder and torture women in concentration camps has nothing to do with misogyny is gas lighting.

Maya Angelou famous quote: the first time someone shows you who they are, believe them is never truer than in these situations. Men who think violence against women and girls is "funny" - who make jokes about rape or slapping their wife for not cooking a meal to their liking aren't being coy. They are telling us exactly who they are: they are misogynists. A man who write a 141 page manifesto about how much he hates women and the myriad of ways in which in wants to harm them is a telling you he's a misogynist (and also deeply racist).

There is a war on women and Rodger's crime are no different than any other perpetrated by violent, misogynistic men. We need to stop talking about it as an aberration. We need to listen to women's experiences and we need men to stop telling women they are over-reacting to male violence. Rodger wanted women to know how inferior they were to him - the men pretending this is about misogyny are simply helping Rodger with his goal.